Report Shows Teen Driving Deaths Up Around the Country

eport Shows Teen Driving Deaths Up Around the CountryIn the first six months of 2011, the number of teenagers who were killed in car accidents jumped by 11 percent – the first time an increase in traffic fatalities has been recorded for teens in eight years, a new report indicates.

According to HealthDay, traffic fatalities dropped on the whole in the first half of 2011, however deaths of 16- and 17-year-olds increased from 190 to 211. The report was issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

“While it is not a surprise that these numbers are stabilizing or slightly increasing, states should not accept these deaths as something that cannot be prevented. More work can and should be done to save teen lives,” report author Allan Williams, former chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said in a GHSA statement.

The report was compiled by aggregating data from statistics gathered by GHSA member groups. Another report, released by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found that in the same studied period, the total number of motor vehicle deaths for any age fell by 0.9 percent.

Despite this decline, the GHSA report shows that deaths among 16-year-old drivers rose 16 percent, from 80 to 93, while deaths among 17-year-olds increased 7 percent from 110 to 118. The data show 23 states reported higher teen traffic deaths, 19 had decreases and eight states, including D.C., saw no change.

Although most states saw only small increases, Williams said teen traffic deaths in Florida, Texas and North Carolina saw significant increases.

“While it is good news that overall deaths [for people of any age] appear to have declined during the first six months of 2011, we are concerned that the trend with teens is going in the opposite direction,” said GHSA chairman Troy Costales in a statement.

Williams says he believes the increase may be due to the acclimation to the benefits of the states’ Graduated Driver Licensing laws, since the laws have been around for some time and their effects may have leveled off. Also, the economy could have played a role in more teen driver fatalities. With more young drivers behind the wheel, the risk for fatal accidents increases, according to HealthDay.

“As the report notes, a widespread strengthening of laws is still possible and finding effective tools outside of Graduated Driver Licensing is an important goal,” Costales added. “These include improving driver education and involving parents in proactively establishing safe driving habits for their teens.”

Costales stated that as the parent of a teen driver, he understands what needs to be done to ensure road safety. Limiting other teens in the car, limiting nighttime driving, and “absolutely prohibiting” any form of cell phone or electronic device use while driving are all practices parents should take to keep teen driving accidents low.

Barbara Harsha, GHSA executive director, says states need more help from the federal government to increase teen driving safety.

“As part of the upcoming highway reauthorization bill, Congress should provide financial incentives to states that have strengthened or will strengthen teen driving laws,” she said in the agency statement.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), about 10 teens died every day in motor vehicle crashes in 2009. In response to this statistic, the NSC supported Graduated Driver Licensing – a system based on 10 years of research that gradually introduces new drivers to risks and hazards associated with driving, hoping to reduce the chance of being involved in a car accident.